The sight of a one-year-old child nuzzling up to a buck kangaroo in the confines of the Morisset Hospital grounds yesterday, may have been a wonderful experience for the child and its parents, but at what risk to all concerned.
While it might seem like an overreaction, it is time people in places of power followed the lead of a North Queensland tourist attraction which, because of the people’s interaction with the roos, has slapped on a charge in a bid to regulate the experience.
At around 2pm on Tuesday there were, at a rough count, 250 kangaroos spread out over the grounds of Morisset Hospital, and around 30 visitors sitting around enjoying the experience of mingling with Australia’s most loved icon.
Remember it was only a couple of weeks back that Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper broke the story about tourists feeding and patting the kangaroos at Morisset.
He uploaded a video, which went viral, showing old footage of incidents of a big roo attacking a visitor to Morisset. It has happened more than once, and you can bet your life it will happen again, only this time it could be a small child.
Operators of one of North Queensland’s top tourist attractions say they’ve had to slap a price tag on a previously free wildlife tour because of a massive influx of tourists threatening the experience.
Cape Hillsborough, near Mackay, is best known for its pristine beaches, and more recently a unique wallaby and kangaroo sunrise tour that was featured on a nationwide Qantas inflight-safety advertisement.
As a result, the beach now attracts hundreds of tourists each week. They flock to the shore to watch the animals as they feed with the stunning sunrise as a backdrop.
The owner of Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park, Ben Atherton, said tourist numbers had quadrupled in just over a year and, while that was a positive for the region, the animals had paid the price.
“We began to notice lots of people bringing down loaves of bread, chocolate bars, packets of chips, just all the stuff we shouldn’t be giving to wildlife, just to get a good photo,” Mr Atherton said.
“But the biggest thing is, when that food runs out the animals can get quite aggressive. Not knowing that there’s no more food there, the animals will attack the person. That’s what we’re trying to prevent. We needed to keep everyone safe.”
Hoping to provide a solution to the problem, Mackay Tourism stepped in to help regulate the experience by adding a price tag to the previously free tour.
The tours will now cost $22 a head and $14 for children from May 21.
The revamped tour will offer visitors a guided experience with a trained tour guide and headsets with commentary about Cape Hillsborough’s history and conservation.
Mackay Tourism general manager Tas Webber said the move was necessary.
“We believe management of the experience is what we need to do to make it sustainable for the long term,” Mr Webber said.
“We’ve put measures in place to make sure there’s no physical interaction between humans and the wallabies, to make sure everyone can enjoy it and get what they’re after.
Mr Webber said controlling the experience would also “help prevent incidents like the one at Lake Macquarie in the Hunter Region of New South Wales where a kangaroo attacked a tourist, leaving her requiring more than 15 stitches.”
Back on the local front, Mr Piper encouraged the visitation of people to the Morisset Hospital to enjoy the kangaroo experience. It might now be time to follow the lead of Mackay Tourism and impose a charge and employ guides to handle what, after all, for visitors to this country, is the experience of a lifetime.
Let’s face it, one child ripped by a kangaroo would be one too many!